Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Felicia Browne was the first British subject to die in the Spanish Civil War. An accomplished sculptress and artist she was active in the communist party. On vacation in Barcelona in July,1936 when the General's rose in opposition to the Republic, she, without hesitation, and fending off considerable discouragement from friends and party officials, joined a communist militia. On the 25th of August, 1936 Felicia was killed in action on the Aragon Front, part of a band of raiders that attempted to dynamite a Facist munitions train. She was 32 years old. Unfortunately very little other than these facts are available on the web. I cannot even find a photo. Above left is one of her sketches; above right we have a photo of her mother British stage actress Edith Johnston. From Felicia's obit:

The newspapers can be relied upon to make capital out of the fact that she was a woman, and she was the last person to wish to lay any undue stress upon the significance of this fact. But it has significance. She had it in her to represent the very best type of the new woman, but the kind of upbringing to which she was automatically subjected and and the forces with which she had to compete in a society where commercial values are preeminent, seriously and unnecessarily delayed her in harmonising all the remarkable powers within her.
She had most of the best human characteristics, but she conceived her own variety more as a source of opposition than of enjoyment. She was without guile, duplicity or vanity; painfully truthful and honest, immensely kind and generous, completely humane, loving any aspect of livingness, and as capable of enormous humour as she was deeply serious. She was gifted at every craft that she tried, a witty letter-writer, an amusing cartoonist, a vital and interesting companion, and socially much too gracious to belong credibly to the twentieth century. She was enormously well read, with a literary visual capacity which would have made her an excellent illustrator, particularly of Dante and Kafka, by whose strange and elaborate cosmogonies she became fascinated in the last year. She loved and appreciated good music and poetry, and whenever she got it, good food and drink - though materially she was remarkably careless and hopelessly generous.
But if her fighting was the expression of her deeply conscientious but less happy side, at least she had intellectual faith in the future. And she found happiness at the end, as far as one can judge from her letters, in a real sense of comradeship with her fellow militiamen. Intellectually she was quite clear about what was necessary for the next few years other life. In a letter to a friend written just before she went to Spain she said, 'You say I am escaping and evading things by not painting or making sculpture. If there is no painting or sculpture to be made, I cannot make it. I can only make out of what is valid and urgent to me. If painting or sculpture were more valid or urgent to me than the earthquake which is happening in the revolution, or if these two were reconciled so that the demands of the one didn't conflict (in time, even, or concentration) with the demands of the other, I should paint or make sculpture.'


Anonymous WhattheH said...

That is a human I would have appreciated meeting and getting to know. Obviously, from the tone of her obit, she was well loved, admired and one heck of a person. I'm hoping there is a biography out there that I can dig up.
I thank you for the post. You've outdone yourself.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Peter Marshall said...

Felicia Browne was my aunt, my mother's sister, who died when I was just over a year old. Sadly her brother William (Billy) died in the Spanish Civil War too, posted 'missing presumed killed' in 1939. I am working on her mother's biography.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Peter Marshall said...

For more information about my Aunt Felicia Browne my email is Peter Marshall, nephew

12:19 PM  
Blogger stuart said...

I heard of Felicia Browne a few years ago when reading about The Spanish Civil War but before the internet information was hard to get. Thanks for the information above. It would be nice if a retrospective of her work could be held somewhere in the UK. Felicia was indeed a remarkable woman but sadly almost forgotten at present. Are there any plans for her biography as yet ?


1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Felicia Brown was a friend of my mother.
Tom Buchanan has written a book called, ''The Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Britain'' in which there is a chapter on her. You might like to read it.

4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photo is that of Felicia's mother.
Peter Marshall, nephew

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Felicia Browne was my great aunt and i have had the pleasure of talking with my grandmother about her heroism and artist skill. I would love to learn more about this decent relative of mine. My Grandma is actually named after her.

7:26 PM  

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